Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

Jihad of the Heart – episode 4

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

This is the final episode of the story.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

Javeed’s lawyer confronts him at the break.  “You didn’t shave this morning!”  Javeed doesn’t bother to answer.  He didn’t shave yesterday either.

David brings his face down close, nose to nose, so that Javeed smells the lawyer’s sandwich.  “To win this we each have a job to do,” David tells him.  “My job is to argue your case.  Your job—no less critical—is to present yourself as the guy you were before you were arrested.  A professional engineer, a proud Canadian, a young husband looking to build a life for yourself and your wife.  You can’t afford to let this stuff get you down!  Now, I’m going to hoof it to the hotel and beg a free razor; you can shave in the washroom.  Another thing—you fell asleep in court yesterday.  If you won’t eat, at least have an energy drink!”  He hands Javeed a bottle of bright repulsive liquid. (more…)

Jihad of the Heart – episode 3

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

This is episode 3 of a story about life insurance and the law.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

Javeed’s journal: Apr. 1st, 2089.   Federal Corrections Facility Abbotsford.  This morning I was outside with nothing between me and the open sky—the almost-infinite blue across which puffy clouds blew freely from the wire-topped fence on the west side of the yard to the same fence on the east.  Birds fly over the fence, in and out.  The robots on the corner towers pay no attention to them.  We men, who know we are being watched, do not go near the fence.

I got a call from the Canadian Civil Liberties Union, some kind of liberal-minded NGO.  The guy said I shouldn’t give up hope.  I said nothing—but kept listening.  In the CCLU’s opinion my trial was a travesty.  I was incompetently represented.  Instead of hanging up, which I should have done, I said, “Tell me something I don’t know.” That only encouraged him.   He said there are grounds for an appeal.  I told him I’m already in debt, expecting him to back off, but he did not.  He said money was no concern—an important principle of law is at stake, and the CCLU is ready to fight for it.   I’d be represented by a team of top lawyers, CCLU members passionately committed to overthrow the terrible precedent set by my case.  Moreover, I’d qualify for legal aid!  There are several grounds for appeal, including egregious lapses of duty of my former counsel (may he eat flies!), all the way to potential conflicts with the Charter of Rights.  Would I launch an appeal?

“At no cost to me?” I repeated, to be crystal clear.

“No cost whatever.”

It being April Fool’s Day, and being a fool myself, obviously, I agreed to meet their lawyer, Mr. David Ogilvie.

As I just now read in the Qur’an, “Fighting  is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it.”  So I fight. (more…)

Jihad of the Heart – episode 2

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

This is episode 2 of a story about life insurance and the law.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

Javeed’s first day in court lasts all of ten minutes.  The crown prosecutor—Vinod Dasgupta, JD—requests a three-week delay, to March 14.  Justice Mackenzie grants the request.  Javeed is disgusted that Darren doesn’t object.  “Javeed, bud, there’s a simple thing called playing by the rules.”

 

Rex vs. Amiri. On the morning of March 14, Javeed finds himself at Darren’s elbow listening to the theory of his life according to Mr. Dasgupta.  The Crown will show that although Javeed purchased life insurance for himself as soon as he was married, he did not suggest a policy for his wife.  That the marriage began to deteriorate in the fall of 2086, when the couple came under financial pressure as interest rates rose sharply after they bought their condo.  That an expected year-end bonus from Javeed’s employer failed to materialize, and so did a hoped-for promotion.  That Javeed was chronically over-optimistic about his prospects, and clueless about the financial health of his employer.  That, unlike Javeed, Laila made an astute career move, landing a better-paid and more responsible job in the emergency ward where she worked.  That Javeed urged her not to take the promotion; in fact, implored her to cut her working hours, even leave the workforce entirely, despite the couple’s obvious inability to meet their obligations on his salary alone.  That Naser, the couple’s friend, who worked as a paramedic at the same hospital, helped Laila make her move, and tried his best to help Javeed see that it was in their interests.  Tried in vain.

The Crown will also show that Javeed neglected to go in for a refresher scan on his policy’s anniversary date, although he continued to pay the premium, thereby ensuring his old backup would remain on file.  That there was no plausible motive for this failure to update, other than Javeed’s belief, confirmed in his journal, that it would allow him to evade responsibility for his actions. (more…)

Jihad of the Heart – episode 1

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

“Jihad” is a story/thought experiment about our legal system coming to grips with restorative life insurance.  What happens to someone who is charged with a crime committed by his later self?  It is also about the Canadian immigrant experience, a few years down the road.

It’s Canada Day.  But he and Laila are not at any of the usual patriotic festivities—they wander the heat-softened asphalt of the Playland midway breathing vivid airs of onion rings, candy floss and puke.  They don’t speak, except with clasped hands and their eyes—of lying entangled and sticky on sun-struck sheets, that long holiday morning.  The Maple Leaf snaps overhead.  Hucksters lean from booths offering three balls, knock down the jugs and win a bear for her—Javeed waves them off, knowing the game is fixed.  Now she points to something she wants—a flailing horror of cartoon teacups.  He laughs—“No, Laila!  My stomach won’t stand it.  Let’s try that one” —the ferris wheel, stately benches rising into the blue view in which lovers can lose themselves.  But she has pulled away.  A carny opens a door and she almost collapses into the arms of Canadian strangers.  The machine starts up, leaving him, Javeed the engineer, inspecting the mechanism, greased rods and pistons blackly abused.  A bolt is loose. “Laila!”  She spins up, and then he knows—but cannot watch her fly off the handle.

Javeed finds himself on his back under a light blanket, full of panic that begins to fade as he sorts out dream from reality.  On his cot in the Detention Centre.  Again.  How many times has he woken, in just one night, to find himself here?  The light is too bright.  He understands why they keep a light on.  But why so bright?

The first of how many nights?

The first and only!  He did nothing wrong.  This is Canada, not Tehran; not the hell-hole of Guantanamo either.  Canada is a country of peace, as he learned in immigration class, and good government—and a third thing, order—gentle and tolerant, welcoming of newcomers.  The lawyer will return and explain everything at tedious length.  There will be apologies all round.  They will let him go home.  Let him go…where?  He heard his address had changed.   Home to what, exactly?

They said he was charged with….  “That’s insane!  You’re talking about my wife and my friend!”  But it’s useless to argue with the police. (more…)

Lessons of Human Fusion

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

The story of Jerry and May (“Coed”) should give pause to anyone who invests all his or her self-concern in psychological continuity and connectedness.

To summarize the plot: Jerry, a 40-year-old neuroscientist, is diagnosed with devastating rapid-onset dementia, a prospect which he regards as equivalent to death.  To save himself, he hits on the plan of copying his psychological attributes to the brain of a graduate student, a young woman named May.  The copying process ‘reads’ his brain-states and ‘writes’ them to her brain, effectively reproducing his memories, abilities, personality, and other psychological dispositions.

Sticklers would regard this as a breach of academic ethics.  But Jerry, although manifestly self-centred, is not without a conscience.  The process he employs does not damage May’s psychology; instead, it takes advantage of redundant capacity in her brain to add his psychological attributes to her own.

Before the mental merger takes place, Jerry sees transference of his psychological attributes to May as a way to escape the fate of his disease.   He anticipates having a future in May’s body, which he expects to share with May herself.

The procedure works according to plan.  When they wake up, the personalities of both May and Jerry are recognizably present in May’s body.  All is not smooth sailing – May and Jerry find themselves in competition for motor control of a single body.  In order to act effectively, they must cooperate.  Sometimes the best way is for one to sit back passively and ‘let the other drive.’

But it is not an equal relationship – Jerry is at a distinct disadvantage.  May is at home in her body, and perfectly competent to manage it, but Jerry finds it foreign and difficult.  When he planned his transformation, he failed to anticipate the full impact of the physical dissimilarity it entailed: the sex change, the reduced physical stature, the girlish voice, loss of the gravitas that society concedes to the mature.  With May’s body, Jerry is more awkward than a pubescent teen. (more…)

Coed – episode 3

Monday, June 21st, 2010

This is episode 3 of “Coed”, a short story about fusion – two persons coming together to share a single body.  If you haven’t yet read episode 1, start here.

The next few days of cohabitation are comparatively peaceful.  Although more spills occur, they are genuine accidents, the inevitable price of learning.  Once May realizes the futility of obstructing him, Jerry’s motor skills improve.  In exchange for her cooperation, Jerry observes certain taboos.  She does not need to tell him, even silently, what they are; his awareness of her sensibilities has sharpened remarkably.  He does not mind too much, finding an unexpected, heady pleasure in his new situation – the joy of youthful health.  I had no idea how my vision was greying out, he announces one sparkling morning, the same day be begins seriously thinking how to get his job back. (more…)

Coed – episode 2

Monday, June 14th, 2010

This is episode 2 of a short story about fusion – two persons coming together to share one body.   If you haven’t yet read episode 1, start here.

When consciousness returns, May finds it cluttered, like a room in which she can’t find something she’s looking for.  Adrift in the jumble, she clutches at anything familiar.  She knows she’s in the lab – she remembers the looming, blinking machines.  Other, more important things are hidden.  She can’t recall her age.

She used to sail with her dad up and down Ghost Lake, in strong winds.  If she was scared, she only needed to look at his face.  He grinned at the sun and wind, embracing any weather.  He worked in forestry.  The memory of a year ago chills her, like a snow cloud blown over the sun.  A sudden headache at breakfast, her mother said.  Then he doubled over and vomited on the floor.  How could that happen?

The enormous prickly helmet, she notices with relief, has been removed.  Stretching, wriggling her toes, she grows annoyed that no one is there to attend to her.  She cranes her neck, looking for her clothes.  She can’t remember what she wore to the lab.

I am now familiar with the entire literature on hemispheric specialization, she thinks, to comfort herself.  Or most of it anyway.  I’m a leading expert in computational neuroscience.  Now I know descriptive and inferential statistics, and ASL. She pictures Nina and Tina going through their intricate routines.  But the meanings are as dark as ever.  I don’t know ASL! she realizes in astonishment.  Didn’t Jerry know it?

There was never enough time, she answers herself defensively.

Nervous, she wishes Sam would come with her clothes – whatever they were.  She vaguely recollects a purple departmental T-shirt, which needed washing, with a picture of a nerve cell.  But that wasn’t mine! She even remembers its sour smell as she pulled it over her head.  It must have been mine. And down, over her flat, sparsely-haired chest…. (more…)

Coed – episode 1

Monday, June 7th, 2010

“Coed” is a fictional exploration of fusion – two persons coming together to cohabit in a shared body.  Fusion cases are more complex than fission, involving greater discontinuities, botb physical and psychological.  You may find that contemplation of fusion cases fosters real doubt as to whether two persons are present, or one.

She knows he’s in there – she can see him brokenly through the office door’s bevelled glass, framed and backlit by the window, inert in his chair.  “It’s me, May,” she calls softly, not wanting to attract attention in the hallway.

The last thing Jerry wants now is to be bothered by students.  With time suddenly so precious to him, he is not prepared to squander it on their all-too-protean intellects.  The knob rattles, making him seethe.  Typical of students nowadays; they’ll barge in anywhere.  They hardly care which washrooms they use.  Even May startled him at the urinal, once.  They were both convulsed by giggles, meeting like that.  He scolded her, but she didn’t care.  Abruptly, it occurs to Jerry that it’s probably May now – she said she’d drop by this afternoon.

At last she sees the fragmented figure inside lurch to its feet, lean towards the door.

He was right – May stands there with her shining golden hair and the essay-in-progress which has been her excuse for visiting him during the entire term.  Playfully, she kicks the door closed behind her.

Instead of reaching out to her, Jerry stands listlessly, his arms limp.  She wonders what’s wrong.

He realizes he will lose this too.  In six months – a year at most – she will avoid his gaze.  Not only she, but all the other tantalizing female students.  And even the ones that aren’t tantalizing.  But now she is waiting for him, to say something.  “How much have you written since last time?”  His tone is collegial, only a little condescending.

“Nothing,” she admits without a trace of guilt.  She dares him with her eyes to reprimand her, but her playful invitation is rebuffed.

That’s how he feels about her too – absolutely guiltless.  It’s a wonderful relationship, even more so than his relationship with Carole, which he once thought wonderful enough to justify the unpleasantness and expense of a divorce.  And now when he has achieved this, and so much else – when his life has at last taken a finished shape, with full-professor status, four-month European vacations, and a conscience mature enough to allow him the things he really wants – now, at age forty, it’s over. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 3

Friday, March 26th, 2010

This is the third and final episode of “Phoenix,”  a short story about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

(video on – metallic cylindrical interior)

Frank here.  So here I am in the itravel pod on Olympus Station, Mars orbit, which is home, heading out to Prince Rupert BC.  Who the heck was Prince Rupert, anyhow?  This system’s running slower than ever.  I’ve been sitting doing dick for five minutes, bored out of my skull, listening to Eleanor Rigby on their crappy sound system.  Okay. here we go, I’m finally getting a tingle…a-a-a-and…must be there!

Welcome to Prince Rupert, Canada’s Pacific Rim deep-water port. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 2

Friday, March 19th, 2010

This is the second episode of “Phoenix,”  a short fiction about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

That was my first taste of problems involved with using my life insurance policy.  I didn’t think they were all that bad, considering the alternative.  It was only after I died a second time that I felt a tiny bit concerned, because it was so stupid.  Even now, now that the pattern is obvious, I have trouble understanding how I could have done it.  Back then, I couldn’t begin to understand.  My log entry after I saw the evidence is pure confusion – just screaming question marks.

I’d survived a year and a half since the volcano.  By that time I had lots of experience and was diving safely.  In fact I was getting bored, and looking at other sports.  Anyway, this is what happened, as well as I’ve been able to reconstruct it.  I needed the cruiser for a date with a girl on some other station so I asked Dad well in advance and he agreed.  Fine.  Eight o’clock Friday night I climbed in and the fuel-oxygen was down to zip.  Almost.  The spare tank was empty too.  How could Dad let that happen?  I was probably late, probably frustrated.  I drove that thing into a station and traded in the spare.  The attendant was pretty young – I saw him at the inquest later – didn’t know much.  He gave me a tank with the wrong fitting.  And I didn’t notice. (more…)